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Keeping Culture from Crumbling as Business Booms

Keeping Culture from Crumbling as Business Booms

Culture is a concept that seems to elude and confuse companies from one end of the business spectrum to the other, but a company’s culture is an ever-present aspect of any establishment. From the Mom & Pop corner diner to the highly-polished chain restaurant – and on up to the corporate offices calling the shots – each setting has a culture waiting to be understood and encouraged to thrive. Unfortunately, as business picks up and companies expand beyond the family-sized start-up, a healthy company culture is harder to harbor, and all too often as numbers grow, employees start to grumble and the culture well dries up.

As Tundra Restaurant Supply celebrates its 20th anniversary, focus on company culture remains strong, and the idea of evolving and expanding that culture as business booms has become a shared effort.

“When I started the recruitment process and we talked about what Tundra has to offer a prospective employee, Culture Crew and the culture of Tundra was brought up. It was really big for me that it was brought up,” Steve Trujillo, current face of the company’s Culture Crew, said of his hiring in August 2012. “I’ve worked for big box companies, huge companies, where I’m just a cog in the machine and I’m just a number [and] it’s more about what you can provide to the company in environments like that.”

Coming from a broad-spectrum background, with experience in both small companies and corporate powerhouses, Steve shares his enthusiasm for connectivity and community throughout Tundra, while realizing the pitfalls inherent to a growing business.

There’s Something Unique to Every Company

“I think there’s something unique to every single company,” Steve remarks regarding whether or not a culture template works across the board. “The individuals within that company need to kind of go through their own trials and tribulations to develop what that culture is and what kind of programs need to be done to keep culture strong. There are some loose methods, like communication. Every company should communicate across departments. There should be social events in every company. Those kinds of things can be thrown into a general template or process, but I think the key for every company is that [culture] just needs to be addressed.”

It’s important to evaluate a new employee’s potential to thrive and mature personally, as well as professionally, within any company. Being one of the few places Steve has worked where culture was actively discussed, Tundra’s approach to finding the proper fit in terms of employees and attitudes appealed to him from the very beginning. Throughout the interview process, professional skills and competency were discussed as well as whether or not his piece would fit into the puzzle of Tundra’s company culture.

“It felt like questions at that time were leaning towards “will this guy fit personally with the people and the team he’s going to come into, and on top of that will he fit within the company,”” Steve remembers. “It’s good to know that everybody gets some sort of question and answer period about who that person is and why they would be a good fit.”

Finding an employee that fits is only the first step of a long, tricky staircase that leads towards immersion in company culture and being a part of making that culture work. Many workplaces have a top-down “system” of culture where attitudes are dealt out like cards and employees just go with the flow. This can lead to varying views of exactly what a company’s culture means to different people, and a superior who stresses and instructs over involving and engaging employees isn’t really helping anyone.

Culture Crew

“At the beginning it really felt like one person was doing everything related to Culture Crew,” Steve says. “What we’ve done a really good job of, at least this year, is that we’ve all got a shared piece of the pie. Everything from Friday Funday to planning social events; everybody’s got an active role. Everybody’s all hands on board.”

With member representatives from a majority of departments within the company including warehouse, accounting, human resources, sales, and marketing Tundra’s Culture Crew meets weekly to discuss company attitudes and employee concerns as well as brainstorm team-building activities and events. Enjoying a company’s culture is an invaluable aspect of employee satisfaction that just can’t be built into the job. It’s a feeling of belonging that makes people want to refer friends and tell family about their fantastic company, and facilitating this feeling needs to be a daily, company-wide effort.

“I think culture is kind of all encompassing. Are you happy with the day you come in to? Is your workload easier to handle because your environment makes it that way,” Steve says of how he sees company culture in general. “To me, the culture aspect comes into play as external factors. The work’s going to be there every day no matter what. The whole idea behind why we have a Culture Crew is to keep this family, I mean it started out as a family business, we want to keep those family values and aspects.”

Tundra Restaurant Supply’s growing family of 135 employees all contribute on some level to the company’s evolving culture. Plans for the year include a company barbecue, pancake breakfast, ski trip, baseball game, softball and kickball leagues, and monthly Friday Funday and employee birthday/anniversary cake days. The company’s Culture Crew, with its rotating members, continuously tries to bring the fun back into the workplace.

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A Look at Tundra’s History with Co-Founders Michael Lewis & Rob Fenton – Part II

A Look at Tundra’s History with Co Founders Michael Lewis & Rob Fenton   Part IIWith the expansion into the online marketplace came the potential for Tundra to bring business to the national and global fronts, providing large establishments as well as the at-home consumer an avenue to shop equipment and parts from the comfort of a computer. A bare-bones website, constructed and maintained by Michael’s son Ryan Lewis in the early 2000’s, generated a single order on the day the site launched, (“for one cutting board,” Michael laughs) and after a few months the company had carved out a place for itself online.

“The first website was very primitive, very clunky, but it was sort of cutting edge at that time,” Michael jokes. “Then we went on to the second one, and with each one we were able to expand the amount of product we put on. We were able to get deeper into the customer world. We became far savvier with web marketing. I think the rest of that’s history to where [the web] is one of the most significant growth engines in this company today.”

The push into web sales and marketing also added to Tundra’s ability to cater to customers on a different level by providing a convenient, customized shopping experience for larger businesses.

“At that same time we started to get a lot of interest from different groups that we worked with. Restaurant chains. They were interested in utilizing and liked the idea of having their own website,” Rob reflects regarding Tundra’s chain sites. “We were able to create a lot of uniqueness for them. It’s amazing how many people are involved in that and want that. It’s worked out well.”

While technological advances assisted in the company’s growth, it’s a core set of values on which Tundra finds its footing for day-to-day interactions and ethics. Jotted down as Michael left his old company, and unaltered as they were cemented into how business is conducted, the thirteen values are painted on the walls and keep the company focused.

“In fifteen minutes I wrote down the values of what I wanted to take with me from my prior experience and hold on to,” Michael explains. “It was the stuff that was successful or wished to be successful. The things that when we had difficult times held us together. That’s where the thirteen values came from.”

As years progressed and times changed Tundra’s culture continued to blossom, and with more product and sales came more challenges. Adjusting to additional business and providing customer and employee satisfaction may not have always come easy, but working back toward the values that helped form the company proved invaluable.

“That’s the beauty of culture, and values, is that they drift.” Michael says of the Tundra’s strong values. “You know the old saying is ‘to be off the path is to be on the path, because at least you have a path and you know you’re off it,’ and having a core set of values to return to was always a centering point.”

And with that centering point always in mind the business has continued to expand. Bringing high quality parts and equipment to restaurants and cozy kitchens around the world has proven fruitful, and both Rob and Michael see the possibilities for Tundra as endless.

“I think it’s unlimited,” Rob says. “As we go forward, always going back to who we are and what we do and the ability to focus on the customer and take care of them as we have in the past, the future’s bright. There is no limit.”

As Tundra celebrates its 20th anniversary this month orders will continue to ship, customers will continue to browse the showroom, and calls will continue to come in. Those humble beginnings of a three employee effort have grown to a well-oiled 135 person team, with each member contributing to the expansion of ten products to nearly 70,000, and the company’s culture and drive for customer care continues to evolve with no limits in sight.

“It’s been one hell of a ride,” Rob remarks.

Read Part I.

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A Look at Tundra’s History with Co-Founders Michael Lewis & Rob Fenton – Part I

A Look at Tundra’s History with Co Founders Michael Lewis & Rob Fenton   Part IFrom a garage based one-man parts company, to a recognized national supplier of literally everything including the kitchen sink, Tundra Restaurant Supply has grown as a business and evolved as a concept for the past twenty years. This month Tundra’s crossing that anniversary line, and co-founders Michael Lewis and Rob Fenton have been along for the ride since the company’s conception. Keeping business practices and employee relations grounded in a solid “ways not policies” mentality, both men can still be seen laughing with vendors or conversing with co-workers on a daily basis. Michael and Rob recently took a trip down memory lane and reminisced about the early days, what makes Tundra special, how things have changed, and how staying the same where it counts has kept the company strong and unique over the years.

“When I came out here it started very fundamentally,” Michael remembers of his move from New Jersey in 1992, “It literally started in my garage. I came out here with the idea of starting a smaller, regional restaurant dealership that emphasized parts and brought what my prior company did at the wholesale level to the retail level.”

Printing and passing out product fliers, in person, to Boulder, Colorado’s budding restaurant scene in early ’93 helped Michael get familiar with the area and the restaurateurs he’d be doing business with. “Well, we have these in stock and we can get a whole lot more,” was his pitch, and pretty soon it was time to print the first official catalog. This is when Michael and Rob crossed paths.

“It’s kind of an interesting story,” Rob recalls. “Out of hundreds of printers in the Front Range, Michael picks three out of a catalog. I was one of the three. I was working for a printing company, and we were able to win and secure the business.”

Those first few small catalogs solidified the duo’s working relationship and paved the way for Tundra’s future.

“We were comfortable with each other right away. I liked his history, where he came from, what he had done in his past life,” Rob says. “My only statement was ‘I know this is going to work. I believe it will work. I just don’t know how long it’s going to take to get there.’”

The answer was:  not long. With three employees (Michael, Rob, and a fundamental team member named Nancy Hogan) Tundra powered forward, securing space, building a customer base, and working with vendors to acquire product. By mid-1993 the shelves had product on them, the phone was ringing intermittently, and the company was able to purchase and ship orders.

“One of the things that worked well at the start was we had a strong value base,” Michael explains. “We had a high integrity for the customer, the vendors, for product, and we were going to deliver a level of service that we believed was not available.”

At that time we did something really revolutionary. We listened to the customer,” Rob agrees. “I think it was key timing too. Timing was perfect.”

With a value system in place that focused on customer service, having fun, respect, and forward progress, paired with a desire to provide customers with the parts and products they needed, the business began to grow. Restaurant supply had been a niche market up until the early 90’s, and as Tundra expanded, so too did the local restaurant scene. Over twenty years of building and maintaining relationships in and outside the area, Tundra’s product offering has gone from parts to small wares, equipment, disposables, and on to textiles and design all with help from the customer. “That was all customer pool,” Michael says. “It wasn’t necessarily a back room creation or we thought this was what the customer wanted. It was asked, and we were able to deliver.”

Continue on to  Part II.

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Being Green Means Being LEED Certified

Being Green Means Being LEED Certified As is the case with most things that are inherently good, the notion of going green has come with a not-so-grand tag-along that’s making the process seem less legitimate. The concept of “greenwashing” – creating, packaging, and selling a few minimal green concepts as a commitment to sustainability – is one that tarnishes the idea of actually going green. In an industry where focus on sustainability can be key to local success, deceptively promoting a half-hearted programs can cause damage industry-wide. This in turn creates negative publicity for an otherwise positive practice, making it difficult for consumers to put faith in a restaurant’s green practices.

Fortunately, companies that are committed to creating honest sustainability have paved the way for those looking to follow suit. The search for standardized credentials to legitimize sustainable businesses has yielded the LEED certification and consumers and businesses alike are finding it valuable. Obtaining a Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) certification from the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) is a lot like a successful recycling program. Although a long and often demanding process, once put in place and on display the outcome can be extremely rewarding.

So what exactly is LEED? 

According to the U.S. Green Building Council: “LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health.”

What does this mean when taken off the paper and put into practice? Essentially, the name of the game is to earn points for the build or remodel of your establishment based on various aspects that can benefit from going green. LEED outlines and examines each of these aspects, and a certification is awarded based on the number of points you achieve out of 110.

Here’s how you play:

  • Sustainable sites (21 points possible): Keeping in mind, and being sensitive to, things like plants and wildlife, water, and air quality when building a new location can earn you major points.
  • Water efficiency (11 points possible): Implementing strategies and making the most of technology that manages your water consumption is important to a successful green effort. If you’re able to cut your establishment’s water use to 20% over the baseline you’ll earn points. The further you can limit your consumption the more points you get.
  • Energy and atmosphere (37 points possible): Energy efficiency, managing your refrigerants to do away with harmful CFCs, and taking advantage of renewable energy are the three areas in which you can earn points in this category. Managing and replacing inefficient restaurant equipment is one way to get started!
  • Materials and resources (14 points possible): In order to maximize your points in this category you need to be conscious of the materials you’re using in your restaurant. Disposable materials made from readily renewable resources are a plus and acquiring those resources from regional providers is a big plus.
  • Indoor environmental quality (17 points possible): The use of automatic sensors mixed with temperature, humidity, and ventilation controls that monitor the quality of your indoor environment can save money and energy. Implementing automatic shut-off and start-up schedules ensures that you’re optimizing different efficiency aspects of your restaurant’s overall environment.
  • BONUS POINTS (10 points possible): It’s possible to gain bonus points in two different ways: 1) remodeling or building in areas that are deemed regional priorities by the GBCI and it can get you up to 4 points & 2) if your project or building shows significant innovation or leadership in design and is worth 6 points.

Being Green Means Being LEED Certified

Point totals: You’re required to earn at least 40 points to receive a LEED certification, but after 40 points it’s possible to earn higher marks. Earning 50+ points gets you Silver certification, 60+ points gets you Gold, and 80+ points gets you Platinum.

Earning a LEED certification is an excellent way to show consumers that you’re not only committed to green efforts on the outside (in your advertising and appearance), but that you’re dedicated in every aspect of your business.

Greenwashing your practices for the short-term gain of customer appeal and media coverage is unwise and will eventually backfire. Getting the credentials should be a no-brainer in the minds of any business owner whose sustainability efforts are second nature. Take the time to earn your LEED certification and make it official!

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Trust & Service: Building Customer Relationships One Guest At A Time

Trust & Service: Building Customer Relationships One Guest At A Time

There’s no question about it, your servers are the face (and essentially heart) of your restaurant. They’re the windows through which your customers view how you run your business. This being true, it’s important to equip your servers with the skills and tools needed to make you money while leaving the best impression.

Servers can, and probably should, be some of the most well trained employees you have on staff. This doesn’t mean they should know the ins-and-outs of all your restaurant equipment,  but the traditional “would you like ____ with that” is no longer the convention… and customers are catching on to this selling tactic.  Plain and simple, they’ve come to expect more from their dining out experience. If you train your servers to follow a few simple concepts when making their rounds, and give them the opportunity to upsell without seeming pushy, you’ll be impressed by how well they assess the needs of your guests.

Evaluate customers individually.

Being able to approach each customer from a fresh standpoint, without a set routine that treats them all alike, can mean the difference between providing an enjoyable evening and coming off as inattentive. Are the customers in your section out on a romantic date, looking to be left alone, but well taken care of? A group of party-having friends wanting new drinks regularly? Or a familiar face coming in for daily breakfast and coffee? Servers should be able to actively evaluate the air and attitude of guests in their sections, adjust their serving style appropriately and provide the service that’s expected.

Recognize regularity.

Is that gentleman sitting at the end of the counter a first-time customer, or has he been coming in every day for the past year? Train your servers to recognize the regulars and invite the newcomers to become regulars. Whereas your daily customers have heard your specials explained before, new customers need that information to understand what you serve, how it’s served, and if they’ll enjoy it when they’re plate comes. Again, being able to adjust accordingly can mean all the difference.

Understand priorities.

Going hand-in-hand with recognizing your regulars, understanding the different reasons why customers walk into your restaurant, in the first place, can give your servers an edge when it comes to making an impression. Some guests stop in for a quick bite before heading home, while others make a night of eating out (and are looking to spend hours in your establishment). Servers who engage with customers, and understand individual priorities, tend to provide the best service.

Go with the flow.

Servers need to know how to pace themselves depending on which kind of customer they’re serving. Keeping a customer waiting for their check, stopping by too often to offer drink refills, or simply interrupting guests when they’re placing an order are all ways servers can overstep and misjudge a customer’s needs.

Gathering information from guests, and evaluating that information appropriately, is a crucial part of the hosting process – its part sociology and part psychology. Creating a relationship with a customer that goes beyond the crass “here’s your meal, where’s my money” approach is often effortless, but building trust can be diligent work. However, trust lets servers be more helpful when providing suggestions, creates a comfortable atmosphere, and ensures a positive experience. Customers who feel comfortable and well served are known for ordering more from the menu, taking advice when it comes to dishes they haven’t tried yet and leaving bigger tips.

But avoid the flip side of the trust coin. Never let an established relationship be taken advantage of for the sole purpose of monetary gain. Twisting trust that’s been built up over time, even if that time is the course of the night, can leave customers feeling exploited. Exploiting your customers can be a quick road to bad business and bad word of mouth, and in this industry word of mouth can mean everything.

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Rivaling Fast Food by Being Kid-Friendly

Rivaling Fast Food by Being Kid FriendlyKid cuisine seems to be a hot topic every year as parents continue to question the foods their children consume and the nutritional value paired with each bite. From the $1.99 kid’s meal at the local fast food chain, to the half-sized portion of a “big person” plate served at a sit-down restaurant, it seems every season sheds new light on how disappointing traditional options are. Simply put, parents these days want the most for their money, without feeling like they’re slowly poisoning their kids with processed foods. This, fortunately, puts today’s fast, casual establishments in prime position to pick up the slack where fast food and slim pickings have fallen short.

Margo Wootan, Director of Nutrition Policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (nonprofit), explained in a 2012 Chicago Tribune article, “Kids are getting about one-third of their calories from eating out.” One-third of their calories, whether it’s obesity-inducing fast food or a new restaurant each week, is a frightening figure to some and a deal-breaker on eating out for others… that’s a roundabout way of saying a tweak to your menu, paired with health-conscious (yet still appealing) options for the whole family, may be just what you need to grow your customer base, while providing parents with an alternative to the greasy burger and fries options.

Targeting a Younger Audience

Catering to a younger demographic, or at least having separate/unique offerings available, is an excellent way to widen that net you’ve been throwing out to pull in customers. Where the family motto for eating out used to be “cheap and easy” we’ve seen the change to an all-encompassing manifesto of “cheap, easy, healthy, atmosphere, options” and the list continues to grow. This means parents are often ditching the kid’s meal and searching for family-friendly restaurants just like yours.

Here’s Why:

  • Kids are developing more sophisticated palates
  • Society is instilling a desire to seem more mature at a younger age
  • While healthy foods aren’t always purchased, parents still want to see those options on the menu
  • Tweens/teens are looking for their own transitional menu items
  • Child obesity is on the rise and the public is taking notice

So what’s the tried-and-true restaurant to do when faced with younger customers and well-informed parents? Evolve, plain and simple.

There are countless resources detailing the detriments of sugar-rich meals packed with saturated fat, and there are just as many resources explaining how to avoid those while staying creative in the kitchen. It’s your responsibility as a restaurant owner/operator to tap into these resources and apply the information to your cooking, but healthy foods aren’t the end-all to roping in the younger crowd and those who oversee them.

Rivaling Fast Food by Being Kid Friendly

Dining Room – If you’re not equipped to seat and serve a family with small children you’re already missing out on that market. Youth seating, like high chairs and booster seats, are a must – as are child-centric cups and utensils. Making a family feel comfortable and welcome can mean the difference between seating five… and watching them pass you by for a quick drive-thru meal.

Entertainment, on some level, is also a smart decision. Most kid’s meals offer small toys, and for good reason. A happy, playing child is not a screaming, unruly child.  Even having a placemat that can be colored or Wikki Stix can keep small hands busy.

Menu Design –  Redesigning one’s menu is a daunting task, especially if the same menu has been used for years. Fortunately, a good menu redesign does wonders for business. When giving those few pages a makeover, moving more profitable/popular items to better positions, make sure to evaluate whether a child or teen specific section should be added.

Most parents would like to avoid wading through full-sized meals to find something suitable for their kids, and having a corner (or even a page) dedicated to younger patrons can be a godsend. Jazz it up, make it easy to read, and include nutritional information – parents will thank you for it.

To Go Options – For the family that still wants to bring food home (as opposed to dining out), having to go options that rival the traditional drive-thru experience can make your restaurant the go-to eatery for after school snacks or family dinner.

This goes hand-in-hand with a comprehensive and accessible menu. If all a mother of three has to do is check the kids section of your online menu, place the call, and pick up food 10-15 minutes later you’re positioning yourself as a fast-food vs. fast-casual crossover. When a freshly made bowl of pasta and accompanying carton of milk can be picked up just as easily as a handful of fast food kid’s meals, you’re in good shape.

Granted, it takes work and dedication to turn your adults-only establishment into an all-are-welcome hub for families and the tween/teen demographic; however, the benefits inherent in opening up your doors to more potential customers are worth the effort. A new year brings with it a renewed vigor to reach more customers, please more people, and beat out the competition without compromising quality: tapping the kid-friendly market – and all it entails – may be all you need to do just that!

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Where To Turn When Your Commercial Oven Craps Out

The holidays are a time for freshly baked treats, slow-cooked meats, and all-around oven-infused goodness. Whether you’re celebrating as an at-home enthusiast or busy restaurant operator it’s safe to assume your oven sees more than its fair share of use this time of year. From heavy-duty restaurant ranges to the above-average home oven, buying the right piece of equipment is essential when it comes to keeping those fires burning during with oven season.

With so many options out there, how does the average consumer find the oven they need without wading through hundreds they don’t? Well, we’re taking a quick look at some manufacturers we stand behind, and wholeheartedly recommend, if you’re in the market for a new oven or commercial range.

Where To Turn When Your Commercial Oven Craps Out

Southbend

With a “reputation for consistency and durability, even in the busiest kitchens”, Southbend is “recognized as a global leader in heavy-duty, commercial cooking equipment” which is a fancy way of saying their restaurant equipment is quality and built to last. From fryers, steam cookers, and broilers to ranges, ovens, and sectional equipment one could easily equip an entire kitchen using Southbend pieces;. in fact, their sectional equipment is meant for just that.

For over 100 years, the company has been building innovative products with, energy saving methods, and safety in mind. This means 100 years of improving upon design and ensuring that working equipment is the last thing the end user worries about when crafting those culinary creations.

The variety of their offerings coupled with the ability to completely customize back of the house line-up has prompted establishments (be they restaurants, supermarkets, or institutional food service operations) to outfit their kitchens using Southbend equipment. With five domestic manufacturing facilities and two abroad, Southbend prides itself on its ability to supply the food service industry worldwide.

SHOP SOUTHBEND PRODUCTS

Where To Turn When Your Commercial Oven Craps OutImperial

Remaining a family-owned company since taking those first few steps in 1957, Imperial’s mission is to continually supply the globe with top value, high-quality food service equipment. Their state-of-the-art manufacturing process and highly skilled employees ensure that each piece of equipment is kept to high standards and produced to please. From order entry to construction completion, Imperial prides itself in lowering production costs while creating top-quality equipment for all your kitchen needs.

Their Green Tech ranges, in particular, boast an ability to add 20% efficiency to range-related operations (from 40% efficient to 60% efficient), and these energy and environmentally conscious pieces hold heat in while reducing wasted energy. For the always-on commercial establishment, those where a wide range of cooking and holding equipment are used constantly, any piece that can dramatically cut down on energy costs is always a welcome addition.

Their energy-efficient practices paired with game-changing innovations puts Imperial on the list of go-to vendors that establishments around the world rely on daily.

SHOP IMPERIAL PRODUCTS

Turbo Air (Radiance)Where To Turn When Your Commercial Oven Craps Out

An industry leader in refrigeration equipment, Turbo Air may be the last manufacturer you’d expect to address your oven needs. But, the company has branched out and delved into cooking equipment, bringing with them their commitment to quality. Radiance opens up the world of heating equipment to a company that’s strong suit has always been making things cold. Where their refrigerators, freezers, prep tables, and keep-it-cold kitchen essentials are what they’re recognized for, the Radiance side of Turbo Air’s operation proves that these cold kings are no one-trick pony.

Passing the industry’s most recent safety, performance, and energy efficiency standards, Radiance equipment gives you the ability to stand under the Turbo Air umbrella when equipping your commercial kitchen. From freezing your foods to cooking them up just right, Turbo Air and Turbo Air’s Radiance have you covered!
With a philosophy of “innovative everyday” and the mindset that “your success is Turbo Air’s success” the company continues to create energy conscious and industry-leading equipment and accessories.

SHOP TURBO AIR’S RADIANCE PRODUCTS

 

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Riding The Waves: 5 Ways To Boost Your Revenue

Riding The Waves: 5 Ways To Boost Your RevenueThe restaurant industry has been struggling for what seems like an eternity now. While you may have a great restaurant concept, a handful of high-selling menu items, and a substantial dinner rush there are always ways to diversify and grow your revenue.

Cut food costs. Make a descending dollar report. A fancy way to say “find the 10 foods you spend the most on every month,” a descending dollar report itemizes where the largest portion of your food expense is going. Have a discussion with your distributors and see if there’s a comparable product, or even a better one, that you can get for less. Don’t be afraid to cut ties with a distributor who’s costing you more money than you need to spend.

Invest in bulk storage to find additional available discounts. If you use your buying power to navigate the roads to the best deals, and invest time in detailing your inventory process to avoid spoilage, you can and will save money.A few cents for every pound purchased turns into significant savings in the long run.

Give employees power to make you money. Sometimes your biggest expense, properly trained employees have the ability to be your greatest asset. Being the face of your restaurant your employees are essentially the windows through which customers view your establishment. Give your staff the tools and know-how they need to please. The key to doing this is excellent, ongoing training. Constantly update and review procedures with all employees. Help your staff feel comfortable enough to offer suggestions, and have conversation-style performance reviews in which you set goals and give incentives for performing well.

A well trained employee has a greater chance of lending a helping hand, upselling menu items, and impressing customers. As a result, happy customers tend to buy more, enjoy their experience, and come back the next time their appetite calls. Remember, training is an on-going process and it’s important to set a good example.

Riding The Waves: 5 Ways To Boost Your RevenueDIY equipment repairs. Being able to service and maintain your restaurant equipment can be a huge money saver. Each piece of equipment in your kitchen serves a purpose, and when one of those pieces doesn’t function well it can affect your entire operation. Additionally, expensive labor and parts costs paid to outside repair companies can add up quickly. Take time to learn the ins and outs of how your equipment works, what’s most likely to fail, and how best to fix what fails when it does. You’ll be surprised how much money can be saved by employing a little know-how and some elbow grease.

Technology can help reel in customers. Consumers are exploding personal information into digital space at ridiculous speeds. If you’re not doing the same with your restaurant you may be behind the curve. Finding menus, shopping for happy hour deals, and recommending hot spots to friends are all ways potential customers search and share when it comes to the restaurant industry. You need to be part of the conversation, and the obvious way to get a word in is by having an intuitive, attractive website. Don’t have a website? You need to get one.

Make sure you feature a current, printable menu, and provide your address, driving directions, and phone number on every page. Butdon’t be content just having a website. Today’s most popular eateries have additional technologies working in their favor like an established e-mail list, social network sites that encourage participation, and wireless avenues of advertising like text messaging.

Diversify your income. Navigating the ever-twisting current that is your revenue stream can become dangerously safe in its monotony. Conducting business as usual can leave you blind to rapids ahead, and without a revenue inlet to steer towards you could find yourself quickly dashed against the rocks. To help avoid unseen obstacles it’s a good idea to branch out and include as many income opportunities as possible.Riding The Waves: 5 Ways To Boost Your Revenue

  1. Add retail items – Customers enjoy creative apparel referencing your restaurant. Selling hats, t-shirts, and wrist bands is an inexpensive way to outfit your customers while getting the word out.
  2. Make your food more accessible – Try offering a take-out or delivery option for your more popular items to accommodate customers who don’t want to dine in.
  3. Host special events – Serving corporate functions and big parties requires special pricing and menu options, but catering to the needs of large gatherings is an excellent way to sell out your space and take advantage of seasonal holidays.

Within a constantly changing landscape, the food service industry is a precarious place to stay stagnant. As doors close left and right new innovations are thrown from windows like confetti, littering the industry with pop-up restaurants, food trucks, unexpected tastes, and evolving palates. While riding the waves of change might not always be the best bet when it comes to your restaurant, it’s safe to keep that metaphorical surfboard in your closet for when the right wave rolls your way.

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Scrutinize Your Restaurant: Avoiding Health Inspector Issues

An ever-present aspect of the food service industry is the inevitable visit from the local health inspector. All too often restaurants fall into the habit of just squeaking by when it comes to inspections, doing the bare minimum to pass, instead of regularly putting good food safety procedures into practice. I’m here to give you a few pointers geared towards maintaining a restaurant that keeps food safety, for customers and staff, at the forefront.

Food borne illnesses are suffered by an estimated 81,000 people every year, according to the FDA. Additionally, 9,000 deaths result from preventable food-related illnesses, and food borne pathogens still stand as the leading cause of emergency room visits in the United States.

With this in mind, are you doing what’s best for your customers when it comes to serving them foodScrutinize Your Restaurant: Avoiding Health Inspector Issues

There are 4 acceptable options for storing your “in-use” utensils:

  • In the food with the handle extended out
  • In a dry, clean place
  • In a dipperwell or similar appliance with potable running water
  • Stored in temperatures of 135 degrees F and above, or 41 degrees F and below

As simple as these options are to employ, health inspectors still come across some pretty appalling practices:  knives wedged into grease-filled cracks between restaurant equipment, utensils hung from food-encrusted magnetic strips, or serving utensils in standing water with floating debris. Now imagine this from a customer’s standpoint. Disgusting, I know.

Storage of food service utensils goes hand-in-hand with maintaining the quality of those utensils. Always examine the edges of what you’re using. Cracks, chips, breaks, and frays in any of your utensils can lead to a customer finding something unappetizing in their meal like slivers of wood or metal from handles and blades. While these areas can be difficult to clean, they pose the most threat when it comes to food safety. Check these problem areas as you make your kitchen rounds, and train your staff to do the same.

Aside from properly storing your serving utensils there are a number of steps you can take as a manger or staff member that, when combined, will contribute to better food safety practices. If you make food safety an everyday priority then the next time the health inspector stops in you’ll be ready.

Scrutinize Your Restaurant: Avoiding Health Inspector IssuesHowever, if you’re just starting to address aspects of your establishment that might not meet the health inspector’s standards it’s a good idea to conduct your own inspections.

Come in unannounced. Surprise your employees on occasion and come in early. Observe how your staff behaves when you’re not expected, and see if there are any food safety issues that need to be addressed.

Use the local health inspection form. Get your hands on a copy of the local health inspection form to help you understand what criteria the inspector will use to evaluate your restaurant. Familiarize yourself with what they’ll be looking for, and regularly monitor the areas you’re having trouble with.

Conduct a thorough walkthrough. Be as objective as you can and approach your restaurant with fresh eyes. This may be difficult, as it’s often hard to scrutinize something you feel strongly about, but it’s exactly what the health inspector’s going to do.

Speak with your employees. Your employees are the front line of your establishment, and are the ones who will (or won’t) adhere to food safety procedures. View your walkthrough as a training experience for new and old employees alike, being specific about what is acceptable and what is not. This way they’re not as on edge when the inspector comes and will already have the know-how to keep things up to code.

Identify problems and fix them. Easier said than done in some cases, identifying your restaurant’s problem areas and coming up with solutions is more than a one person job. Don’t assume that just because you’ve outlined your food safety strategies with your employees that these strategies are being followed. Make it common practice to re-check for violations, and constantly reward employees for quickly correcting mistakes. With a little enthusiasm you can easily avoid sick customers, and worse yet a lawsuit. It’s a team effort, you’re just the captain.

Do yourself, your staff, and your customers a favor and re-evaluate your food safety program. Flush out potential holes, and commend yourself for things you’re doing well. Practicing proper food safety is just that, a practice. It takes constant attention to detail and a determination to not only “beat” the health inspector but to provide a complete picture of sanitary performance.

 

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From The Ground Up: Hiring, Training, And Compensating Your Employees

From The Ground Up: Hiring, Training, And Compensating Your EmployeesUnfortunately a high turnover rate is not always a positive aspect in regards to the restaurant industry. When it comes to customers, turnover can be great for your revenue. When it comes to employees, if it happens often, turnover can fracture the once-smooth operation of your establishment.

Employee turnover is inevitable, but if you follow a few basic procedures you can maximize your employee retention. Keeping the employees you have, and making the most of their skills and ambitions, can be the key to reducing your costs and increasing your restaurant’s efficiency.

Cast a wide net.  It’s hard to weed out who will cost you more money in the long run if you’ve only got one applicant. Cast that net wide and pull in as many possible candidates, from as many outlets as possible, to increase your chance of finding that golden employee.

Use multiple media.  When it comes to finding a job we’ve come a long way from circling ads in the Help Wanted section of the local paper. Think outside of that Help Wanted box and you’ll be surprised how many places potential employees look for employment. This goes hand-in-hand with casting that wide net. Talk to your current employees and tell them to spread the word. Put that ad in the local paper, but also post it to online job search sites. Let people know you’re looking by looking everywhere!

Screen. Screen. Screen. It’s easy to avoid the embarrassment of interviewing a candidate who’s completely wrong for the position, and also find someone who fits best, if you take the time to evaluate each candidate. Going over a stack of resumes one-by-one may take a while, but it’s definitely worth the time in the long run. Look at what’s important. Relevant job experience, references, and salary requirements can all play a large role in how that candidate operates and if they’ll be able to adapt to the position you’re offering.

Interview. If you’ve screened your candidates well, letting everyone who will work with them weigh in somehow, the interview process should be an extension of that screening. This is where you make sure the person on paper is actually the person you’re interviewing. You may laugh, but all too often people exaggerate their skills to sound more marketable. Make sure to ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. If you do this, and listen actively, you’ll get a feel for how the candidate views the job and also where they are in their life. Are they looking to hop in and out of your position within a matter of months, or are they someone you can count on further down the road?

From The Ground Up: Hiring, Training, And Compensating Your EmployeesTrain with your best. Now that you’ve found your new employee, make sure that person has access to your very best in terms of restaurant equipment and resources. A well trained employee may take time up front but can end up saving you more time and money in the future. An excellent way to groom your new hire is by having them shadow your top performing employee for a few days. This helps them learn the ins and outs of the job and also shows them what a good employee looks like. Create clear expectations and apparent avenues to achieve those expectations. Nothing costs more, money and time, than a confused employee acting on that confusion.

Be an example. Your staff essentially looks to you for approval and guidance. Giving them cues as to how you’d like things done, or what works best in a certain situation, can help eliminate confusion and garner good behavior. The best way to provide a positive work environment and retain your employees is to set a good example for everyone to follow.

Compensate creativelyTraditionally, compensation strategy has been to pay hourly for your kitchen staff, and have your waitstaff make most their pay through tips. High turnover and inefficient operation have caused some restaurants to rethink how they compensate. Here are two outside-the-box compensation strategies that have worked:

  1.  Salary your waitstaff. You’ll be surprised how priorities change. When you make a living on tips you’re often trying to up-sell and raise check averages, and in doing this top-notch service and customer satisfaction can suffer. On the other hand, salaried servers don’t feel the pressure to keep those tables turning. Instead they’re free to focus on the quality of service rather than the speed.
  2. Share profits with back of house. Most likely your kitchen staff is paid an hourly wage, and those employees will make that hourly no matter how quickly or efficiently they work. An incentive to keeping those in the back of the house productive is profit sharing. Let your kitchen staff earn shares based on how long they’ve been there, then let them share in the profits each quarter. This will help reduce turnover because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want a job that pays out a bonus 3 to 4 times a year? When an employee shares in your success it’s in their best interest to add to that success.

As we’ve discussed, turnover can be the factor that makes or breaks your business. Handling this turnover, and taking appropriate steps to avoid turnover wherever possible, can give you a leg up on your competition. Having a plan for approaching and reaching potential employees, and then following that plan through your hiring process, training, and eventually compensation can be invaluable. It all starts with you!

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